12/27/2006 12:00AM

Track whips up tasty card


Far too many food analogies get drawn in New Orleans, where a love for the local cuisine is rivaled by a love of rhapsodizing over the local cuisine. And it would be easy to point out what a savory gumbo of a racing program Fair Grounds has cooked up for Friday: Two divisions of the Louisiana Futurity - one for fillies, the other for colts and geldings; a third-level turf allowance with potential stakes horses in it; and an entry-level two-turn allowance race for 2-year-old fillies thrown in for seasoning.

The $45,000 male division of the Louisiana Futurity (race 3) drew eight horses, including the Scott Blasi-trained entry of Hallway and Paljo, who both exit the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, in which Hallway closed for third and Paljo faded to seventh after contesting the early pace. But the horse to beat here is Connor's Call, who in his debut finished second to Timely Sweep in the second race on opening day this meet. Connor's Call left no doubt of his superiority in his second start, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths over 11 other Louisiana-bred maidens.

The fillies get their shot in race 7, and this futurity drew what looks like a deeper field of 10. The favorite is sure to be Huckie, whose three-race winning streak includes a 5 3/4-length score last out in the Champions Day Juvenile Fillies. But Huckie, an off-the-pace sprinter, benefited from an ideal setup on Champions Day, with a sizzling half-mile pace at which to run. There's speed again Friday, but perhaps not as much as there was last time, and Huckie is making her third start in six weeks. Maybe a fresh horse like Princess Deelite, a stakes winner herself, or the maiden winner Smilin Hit can pull a minor upset.

The third-level turf allowance, race 9, got 10 horses, but could go with considerably fewer if thunderstorms forecast for the area Thursday night into Friday actually arrive, forcing a switch to the main track. Among the entries in race 9 is Mr. Sulu, the venerable Louisiana-bred grass specialist who finished third in the Champions Day Turf and has won eight times on the Fair Grounds course.

But the horse to beat here is Dastardly Deeds, whose second-place finish to Devilment at this class level in his last start began to look much better when Devilment returned to win a $75,000 Fair Grounds stakes race.